New England Patriots: 5 Players Who Stepped Up in Super Bowl LI

New England Patriots

Feb 6, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick speaks during the Super Bowl LI winning team press conference flanked by the Lombardi Trophy at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots were able to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Here are five players that stepped up in the win.

Super Bowl LI turned out to be one of the best of all-time between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. Fans of the Falcons won’t agree, however, this turned out to be a great game.

With the Falcons in control in the second half, it was safe to assume that they were going to be Super Bowl Champions. Everything had to go wrong for the Falcons and then right for the Patriots. That is exactly what happened.

In the fourth quarter, Tom Brady was staring at his third Super Bowl loss. In the first half, things didn’t go right for the Patriots. They were able to move the ball well, but mistakes prevented them from finishing drives.

It was shocking to see the Patriots only total three points in the first half. While the Falcons’ defense had improved a bit, the Patriots’ offense really let the team down. Despite impossible odds, the Patriots were able to erase a 25-point deficit to defeat the Falcons in overtime.

In a win like this, there were a lot of big plays and key players that helped them achieve that. Most notably, the catch by Julian Edelman was the most miraculous play of Super Bowl LI. While that was a big play, there were plenty of others in the game.

Now that the Patriots are Super Bowl LI Champions, here are five players that stepped up in the win.

New England Patriots

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) scores on a two-point conversion against Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brian Poole (34) and cornerback Jalen Collins (32) in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

5.) Danny Amendola

2016 was a down season for Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola. Due to injuries, Amendola only played in 12 games, and he wasn’t heavily involved in the offense when he was healthy. This season, Amendola totaled just 23 receptions and 243 receiving yards.

However, he certainly was a big factor in the Super Bowl. On their way to the comeback win, Amendola totaled seven receptions, 80 receiving yards, and one receiving touchdown. With the Patriots trailing by 16, Amendola’s touchdown was a key in the comeback, as he made it an 18-28 score prior to the two-point conversion.

While Amendola has been overshadowed by Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, and Chris Hogan this season, he was arguably the best of the bunch in the Super Bowl. Due to the 466 passing yards by Brady, there was a lot of receiver yards to go around.

Not too many people could have predicted Amendola being one of the stars for the Patriots, but he stepped up. With Chris Hogan being a non-factor against Atlanta, the Patriots needed Amendola to be a solid option for them in the passing game. It’s not easy to be asked to rise to the occasion with limited playing time. However, Amendola was clearly prepared to make an impact in Super Bowl LI.

New England Patriots

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers (98) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

4.) Trey Flowers

Going into the Super Bowl, generating pressure on both quarterbacks was important. For the Falcons, many were unsure whether or not they would be able to get to Tom Brady. In the first half, the Falcons did a really good job generating pressure on Brady. The Patriots were able to fix their protection issues in the second half, and that was one of the reasons why they made the comeback.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots were able to generate a decent amount of pressure on Matt Ryan. With center Alex Mack playing with a fractured fibula, it was hard to tell how he would be able to hold up. Mack ended up playing the entire game, but the Patriots were able to generate pressure still.

The key player on the pass-rush for the Patriots was none other than their leading sacker from the regular season. Defensive end Trey Flowers had a breakout season in his second year, and he had arguably his best game. In the Super Bowl, Flowers totaled 2.5 sacks, and he had one of the biggest plays of the game when he helped push the Falcons out of field goal range by causing pressure on Ryan. The future appears to be very bright for Flowers, and he was excellent in Super Bowl LI.

New England Patriots

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates after winning Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

3.) Tom Brady

It wasn’t a perfect game for Tom Brady, but it turned out to be a memorable one. After serving a four-game suspension to start the season, Brady went on to have one of the best regular seasons of his career. He was able to total 28 touchdown passes and two interceptions. Despite only throwing two interceptions in the regular season, Brady did make some mistakes in the playoffs.

One of the key plays of the first half was the interception thrown by Brady. With the Patriots driving, Brady threw an inexcusable pass over the middle that was an interception and returned for a touchdown.

Despite the poor first half, Brady responded in a big way. The Falcons left the door open a few times for the Patriots and Brady was able to make them pay. With a few big throws in the fourth quarter, Brady was able to lead the Patriots to the best comeback win in Super Bowl history. In the win, Brady finished with 466 passing yards and was named the Super Bowl MVP. If not for the pick-six, Brady would have had one of the best Super Bowls of all-time. However, that interception really hurt the Patriots in the first half.

New England Patriots

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower (54) celebrates with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after beating the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

2.) Dont’a Hightower

Even though the Falcons had 28 points on the scoreboard at the end of the game, the Patriots’ defense did a pretty solid job throughout the game. Two of the Falcons’ touchdowns came off of turnovers. While one interception was returned for a touchdown, the Patriots’ defense did allow the Falcons to move down the field after the fumble by Blount.

Due to the Patriots being down in the turnover differential by two, the Patriots knew that they needed to force a mistake by Atlanta. All season, the Falcons have been excellent at taking care of the football. Regular season MVP Matt Ryan made few mistakes this season, but the Patriots’ defense was able to force him into one in a key moment in the fourth quarter.

On a blitz, linebacker Dont’a Hightower was able to sack Ryan just prior to his arm moving forward on a pass. The ball came loose, and it was recovered by the Patriots. Hightower has been banged up for a good part of the season, but he was able to come up with a huge play for the Patriots when they needed it the most. The fumble forced by Hightower really helped spark the comeback, as the momentum totally shifted.

New England Patriots

Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) scores the game winning touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in overtime during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1.) James White

In the Super Bowl, sometimes it isn’t always the star players that shine the brightest on the biggest stage. While Brady had a monster game for the Patriots in the comeback win, running back James White was arguably the best player on offense for the Patriots.

Despite barely playing against the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers, White had a historic game in Super Bowl LI. In the win, White totaled a new Super Bowl record with 14 receptions. During the season, White had been a good receiver for the Patriots. However, he certainly lost some playing time when Dion Lewis returned from injury.

White’s 110 receiving yards led all players on the Patriots, as not too many people would have predicted that. In addition to the great day catching the football, White also was the most effective runner on the ground for the Patriots.

One of the reasons for the slow start for New England was that they weren’t able to get LeGarrette Blount going on the ground. The Falcons’ defense had a lot of success stopping Blount, as he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. On the other hand, White was able to average 4.8 yards per carry, and he also ran for two touchdowns. Even though Tom Brady won the Super Bowl MVP  award, he admitted that White was more deserving.

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